More than a decade after the creation of the world’s largest and most popular video-sharing website, YouTube has evolved into a new kind of company entirely. What was YouTube like in the beginning, and what is it now?
YouTube’s earliest years were volatile. One of its first plans as a company, according to a Time article from 2006, was to emulate the Hot or Not dating site, but with video uploading and sharing as an added, unique bonus feature. Although it didn’t completely succeed in replicating the competition, the company did succeed in other ways. In 2006, Google bought YouTube, which set it on a new path toward becoming what we know it as today.
With Google’s help, YouTube became a great site for people to post their experiences and messages online. Anyone with an internet connection and a free subscription could post videos. And as a result, the diversity in the content found on the website grew to eventually include music videos, video gameplay and commentary, comedy sketches and independent viral videos.
Certain channels became popular enough to give people a sustainable way of living. The idea behind the channels being able to create content that generates enough views to attract advertisers.
But the opportunities YouTube offers to the content creators also gives these people an interesting influence over their audiences. As the people who make those videos with millions and billions of views grow in popularity and size, their influence on their audiences significantly grows beyond what it would have been without YouTube.
For example, the most subscribed channel on YouTube, PewDiePie, was started by a Swedish man who recorded himself commenting and playing video games. It currently has over 45 million subscribers, which is about the same as the population of Spain. With the attention of that many people, the man behind the channel has paved the way for new producers to pursue a similar manner of living off YouTube.
His channel is one example of the pioneering that is taking place on YouTube. As PewDiePie’s channel grew in size, so did other channels whose stars struck the same chord with viewers as PewDiePie did (and monetized).
Fame and success has always inspired other people, but YouTube seems to have a unique closeness between those who are successful — the channels with millions of subscribers — and those who are enthralled by them. Like many big YouTube channels, PewDiePie puts his face in his videos, giving them a personal feeling that makes the audience more directly connected to the experience while they watch. The small distance makes the job more appealing, and therefore seems like a possible factor responsible for the growth in YouTube’s content diversity as more people create and search for new ways to gain a significant following on the site.
YouTube looks like a promising community to be a part of right now. It’s connected to Google, which I’d like to think is a secure parent company, and rewards users who are able to create a following using their channel. Actually, why am I even at college? It’s free to make a YouTube channel, and if I generate original content that’s interesting to enough people, I could make a living playing video games in an apartment.